The most recent book of Yao Jingming, which is written in Chinese, explores the “History of literary exchanges between China and Portugal”. The first Portuguese, writers or missionaries, who wrote about China and its people, are traced in the book.
Yao Jingming, who is a poet, translator and university professor, tells the story of the Portuguese writers who had been writing about China over 500 years. The “History of literary exchanges between China and Portugal” presents the travel literature and also the literary writings about China composed by writers or missionaries. The book was released last month at the International Book Fair in Beijing, being only available in simplified Chinese.
Yao Jingming told Hoje Macau that it was a book that discussed the primodial time of contact made between Chinese and Portuguese, reported in the works written by Portuguese, which were not always considered as literature. Excerpts from the “Pilgrimage” of Fernão Mendes Pinto (a work of the 16th century), or Alvaro Semedo, Jesuit priest who wrote about the Chinese Empire, can also be found in the book.
“The Portuguese always wrote a lot about China, such as the Chinese character, the customs and traditions. However, the Chinese have preserved a few things about Portugal,” said Yao Jingming.
The importance of Macau
Yao Jingming continues to tell that Macau plays an important role as being the crossing point of many writers. “Although there is insufficient evidence about the life of Camões in Macau, it deserves to be addressed and investigated. The story is quite legendary, but why did it become a legend? Therefore I talked about the journey of Camões and the image of China of the Great Wall and the Chinese people depicted by Camões, who has never been to China.”
There is also an analysis on Camilo Pessanha and his paradox. “I talked about his translation of the Chinese elegies. He loved the Chinese language and the translation, but not that much to the music, a paradoxical aspect that I also wanted to discuss.
Works of China are missing
Looking into the history, Yao Jingming has always been feeling pity that there is still so much to write and to share. “I wanted to open a door for this history of literary exchange to get closer.”
Nevertheless, “exchange” may not be the most appropriate term for this relationship, since it is a bit static but not dynamic. Each one does their own things.”
The author considers that Macau “is an evidence for that”. “Even if the Chinese and Portuguese live together in such a closed place, what kind of connection does it exist? There is only a very superficial exchange between the two communities. It is also the same at the country level. The exchange is not yet profound.”
Yao Jingming would still like to see more Chinese authors writing about Portugal. “There are more Portuguese writers writing about China than the Chinese writing about Portugal and the Portuguese. I regret the fact that, so far there isn’t any book of the Chinese author has been published to analyze how Portugal is and how the Portuguese are. There is no book dealing seriously with this topic.”
There is still no plan for the translation of this book into Portuguese, which may also be published in Macau.
The work of Yao Jingming is part of the collection “History of literary exchanges between China and foreign countries”, as is the case of the United Kingdom, United States or Spanish-speaking countries.